Religion and superstition, how do we draw the distinction? Lets think like this. If you have ‘faith’ it would be very hypocritical to look at your faith as above and more ‘rational’ than someone else’s faith just because they do not appeal to your sensibilities. There are many similarities than we may actually be ready to accept(Religion vs. Superstition). Well that is a good topic for a discussion, which just came up when I started thinking about writing about this particular case study I came across during a visit to a village in Maharashtra.
Walking around the edges of a village, we chanced upon a boy with really long and thick hair. The lady with me said he has been pledged to the Goddess Laxmi! I asked what does that mean. She said lets go and talk to the grandmother of the boy who would explain better.
We came to know that the boy and her sister were born to the lady’s son outside the wedlock from a Muslim woman who left her son later on and also her children. The son was now with his first wife and had also abandoned his children. So the grandmother had to take care of them along with her paralysed husband. The family was surviving solely on the wage earned by the old lady as a farm labourer. The father of the children rarely visited them and did not provide for their education or anything.
The grandmother explained to us that before the boy was born, Goddess laxmi had come to her in her dreams and asked for the boy. The Goddess told her that there were going to be complications in birth and a boy would be born through her ‘blessings’ and thus the boy had to be pledged to her. And so the unborn child’s destiny was decided for him before his birth.
Now what are the exact terms of this arrangement we were not able to understand. He could be educated and take up a job, but he is not supposed to cut his hair. And in case he has to marry then a pregnant goat has to be sacrificed! The ritual was also described to us. The pregnant goat has to be sacrificed and the head of the semi-formed kid would have to be severed and decorated and used to light a see diya for ten days. This has to be followed by arranging a feast for a few people. Only after all of this can the boy be freed of the pledge that his grandmother made.
This got me thinking.
Few days earlier I was reading an article on ‘witch-hunting’ in another district of Nandurbar. Women, usually the once who are more vocal or active in a village, can be branded by anyone and be killed by the villagers for bringing bad luck, allegedly causing death of somebody or any other reason.
Why does such superstition persist? Which superstition is better than the other? Yours, theirs or mine? Can we claim to be above superstitions?